Businesses continue to vacate Main Street’s Little India

Arora Cloth House moved to Surrey in April 2013.
Photo by: Gavin Fisher

Throughout the historic Punjabi Market businesses continue to close while others remain empty due to high rent, increased property taxes and a customer base that is now largely in Surrey.

Wescana Fashions and Mohan Cloth House are both currently having closing-out sales after being in business for over 25 years. They are the latest businesses to close in the market on Main Street between 48th and 53rd Avenue.

“It’s very difficult to survive,” said Ali Rajani, who owns Wescana Fashions on the corner of Main Street and 49th Avenue.

Rent costs and property taxes hinder new businesses

Rajani said he pays between $55,000 and $65,000 a year in property tax.

He said the high rent and high taxes are preventing new businesses from coming into the area. His building has been up for lease the past seven months but no one is interested.

“It’s a prime corner connecting to downtown. But [there’s been] no response from anybody,” said Rajani.

Mohan Rakhra, owner of Mohan Cloth House, said the number of customers continues to decrease while rent goes up.

Mohan Rakhra (left) and Gurmit Rakhra (right) own Mohan Cloth House and are experiencing the market decrease in Little India as their store goes out of business.
Photo by: Gavin Fisher

Wescana Fashions and Mohan Cloth House follow on the heel of several other closures in the area over the past year. Arora Cloth House closed its doors in April this year, Guru Bazaar closed in January, and Frontier Cloth House closed in September 2012. All three businesses now have stores in Surrey.

“All of our clientele has moved into the Surrey area,” said Sunny Khuruna, owner of Guru Bazaar. “We have to be where the customers are.”

Business owners want a wider variety of shops

Many current business owners said that there needs to be a greater variety of stores to attract people to the area, and not just stores catering to the South Asian community.

“First we started in the Indian community so we survived,” said Haresh Shukla, who runs Mother India, an import store on Main Street. “Now the only way we can survive is [with a] mixed community.”

Rajani from Wescana Fashions agreed. “Look at Fraser [Street], it’s booming because it’s multicultural there. Banks are there, grocery stores are there, doctors are there,” said Rajani. “But Main Street, what is it? There’s nothing here, not even a single bank… It’s a dead spot after six o’clock.”

Vancouver, B.C --- One of several signs labeling the historical Punjabi Market.
One of several signs labeling the historical Punjabi Market.
Photo by: Gavin Fisher

Simran Virk, who runs Roots Café on the corner of Main and 49th Avenue, said the Punjabi Market is a thing of the past.

“It’s not dying, it’s dead. It’s time for a new, fresh facelift on this part of the street … We want some neat places, but if it’s not affordable for people to come here it’s going to take a much longer time.”

Reported by Gavin Fisher

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